Just last month we looked at the LIFX Wi-Fi enabled, multi-color LED light bulb that could be controlled via a smartphone. With 16 days still to go, the Kickstarter project has exceeded its US$100,000 funding goal 13-fold, suggesting there might just be a market for these things. Looking to claim its own slice of this pie, Philips has just flicked the switch on its own somewhat similar offering called hue.
With hue, Philips is essentially taking its Ambilight TV technology introduced in 2004 that projects light corresponding to the onscreen content onto the wall behind the TV, and putting it in a regular light socket. The Wi-Fi-enabled LED bulbs screw into existing (E26 or E27) sockets and connect to a home network via a bridge that plugs into the Wi-Fi router. Each bridge supports up to 50 individual hue bulbs.
This wireless connectivity allows each bulb's color and brightness to be controlled via an app on a smartphone or tablet. The app includes four pre-programmed “Light Recipes” based on Philips’ research into the biological effects of lighting that are designed specifically for relaxation, reading, concentrating and energizing.
However, users are free to customize the lighting as they see fit and save their settings, which Philips calls “light scenes,” for calling up at a later time with a touch of a button. Users can even share light scenes on the hue online community site and Philips is encouraging developers to get on board by creating an open source platform for the hue system. The bulbs also use the ZigBee Light Link standard and can be integrated with other ZigBee certified home automation systems.
The app also allows any photo stored on a smartphone or tablet to form the color palette with users able to select the lighting color by touching any area of the picture.
Timers can be set to trigger specific brightness and colors, so in addition to rousing one gently from their slumber by gradually bathing the room in light, a color change could signify it’s time to get the kids to school or to bed. The wireless control capability allows users to turn the lights on and off remotely to make it look like someone is home.
Future plans for the hue bulbs include integration with sound and video systems – which would essentially be a surround light Ambilight system – and a geo-location service that would automatically switch the lights on when you get home and turn them off when you leave.
An app for iOS devices is currently available, however, an Android app is due in December. In the meantime, Android users can control the hue bulbs via the hue website.
Philips is initially only selling the hue system through Apple Stores and Apple.com with a starter kit including three bulbs and the wireless bridge going for US$200 and additional bulbs selling for $60 each.
The below video from Philips shows the hue lightbulbs in action.